Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The journey: MC to Public Affairs Officer

Before he was a PAO, Ensign Larson mentored (and scared) the DINFOS students as MC1 Larson.

Over the last couple of years, I've had quite a few inquiries from my readers about applying for PAO, transitioning to PAO from MC, and the differences between the two jobs.  I realize information on the subject is hard to find.  Let me introduce you to someone who is perfectly suited to answer your questions. 

I recently wrote Ensign Larson, soon to be promoted to Lieutenant Junior Grade Larson, with your questions.  He is serving as deputy public affairs officer on board the USS Theodore Roosevelt, homeported at Norfolk Naval Station, Norfolk, Va.  His path to commissioning is unique, as you'll read.

His story is below.


Ah yes, the transition. I must say the Emperor has fully driven out the good in me in my complete turn to the dark side. lol.

Seriously though, it has been an amazing transition. I have been on board my ship for 17 months and I put on LTjg in two weeks. From how much is given, much is required, like LCDR Colkitt said at my commissioning.

Being an officer is the biggest challenge 
I have undertaken in the Navy. 

Oath of Office at the Defense Information School.
When I walked onboard my command for the first time, the guy I relieved had already been gone five months, and at the time, there was no PAO department head. Just me. As an LDO, I was expected to lead and operate my division.

 ...my Sailors make it happen day in and day out, 
and I enjoy setting them up for success 
and teaching them what I know.
They were hands off with me, which was great. I didn't need to be hand held, but I did have a lot of questions as I found my way. I sought out senior LDO mentors, which gave me advice and counsel.  They didn't provide me the answer necessarily, but guidance that could help lead to my own decisions and solutions.

Believe me, when you have 20 Sailors you're responsible for who look to you every day for answers, it's challenging.


As an enlisted Sailor, you get to be hands on, and execute tasks. The officer is the idea guy, the vision, the big picture guy. A manager will tell you how to climb a ladder. A leader will tell you which ladder to use and what wall to put it against. This is where it is vastly different being an officer. I tell my Senior Chief where we need to go and what needs to happen ( we talk about ideas and solutions of course), and I turn it over to him to execute.

Demonstrating the macro lens at DINFOS.  Photo by me.

I still counsel my Sailors when it needs to come to my level, I write evals, I QC certain products, I mentor my photographers, but most of my time is meetings, 3M DIVO stuff, Repair Locker Officer stuff, arranging DV visits, managing long range planners like manning, training, equipment, quals, etc for the department. Throw in the occaisional media interaction for certain events. My PAO work is limited since we are in the shipyard, and my department head sees the need for me to be very ship focused in getting us ready to go back to sea.

The most rewarding part is developing junior Sailors. And each of them bring their own drama and challenges, and joys, to the job everyday.

Wouldn't go back for anything.


Ensign Larson was the last Navy photo limited duty officer to be commissioned, ever.  If you're interested in more details, click the link for a great story about the commissioning, and a great quote from yours truly.

I'll end this post with a few examples of MC1, err I mean Ensign Larson's photography.

Feast your eyes on THE SKILL.

Rainy day with the family.


  1. I am considering pursuing a commission...I just want to know more about the difference between being enlisted and being commissioned. This entry has been very helpful - thank you.

  2. OH NO!
    I was hoping to become a photo LDO!
    Will he be the last on EVER?!
    Or just for now?

  3. It's probably forever, but you never know.

  4. There's no expectation that the LDO program will be coming back any time soon to my knowledge.